Thursday, April 14, 2011

Opsec, from a Marine

This post is from my husband. He feels like we need to understand Opsec from a Marine's point of view and how they understand it. So here it is. 

Opsec: What you can and cannot disclose should usually be common sense but, as I read blogs there are more and more people getting bashed because of stupid little things and other people that don't have the common sense to not post sensitive information, I feel the need to write a little something. 

If you feel as though I am wrong and I am too loose with my interpretation that is fine you have an opinion just as I do hence why I am in Afghanistan right now, so you can use your opinion freely. I am going to start with the book definiton of OPSEC and why it is place both should be obvious but for my opinion/interpretation to be relevant we have to start somewhere. Operations Security is keeping potential adversaries from discovering our critical information. Even though information may not be secret it can be considered what we call critical information.  Critical information deals with SPECIFIC facts about military intentions, capabilities, operations, or activities. 

Now to be specific you would have to use things such as times, dates, number of vehicles in a covoy, capabilites of weapons, what weapons we are using where, location of troops.  Now I don't think my wife has mentioned on her blog where I am located or even what I do.  She has said that I have a desk job which is partly true.  My job is actually what brings your men home.  I know what can be said over a non-secure phone and what has to be said over a secure phone line, hence my educated (I feel its educated based on the training I've recieved) opinions on the matter. 

Now I havent been to a spouses pre-deployment brief so I'm not sure what they tell you you can and cannot say and the information you give is still up to you.  I know of wives that didn't care anything about opsec and some that I feel take it a little too far.  One thing my wife told me she felt was too much was one wife had a "countdown callender" on her blog.  I don't think that is too much because if you really know the date your husband is coming home 6 or 7 months beforehand I wish you wives would let us know because up until our bird lands in the US there is never a sure thing.  Sure you know when your husband left, how long the deployment is, and when he is supposed to be back, but that math never works out and you might be a month off.  

I know my wife edited her last post saying I would be home in 11 months.  Is that specific?  Not at all in my mind.  I might be home in 10 months, it might be 12.  She doesn't know, and until my plane takes off from Kyrgystan and lands in the US I won't know when I'll be home either.  To me a violation would be telling the world that tomorrow at 1030 my husband is finally landing back at Beaufort, South Carolina from deployment.  Or my husband is running the .50 cal in the turret of the lead truck in his convoy tomorrow, and by the way he is in Leatherneck.  

That is what opsec is about.  Don't give up specifics that will get us killed but you don't have to sensor yourself so much that you have to think about everything you are saying.  Blogs are very public I understand that, but so are flight schedules.  You can find flight schedules on the internet believe me and that is alot more specific than you saying your husband will be home in 7 months and you are excited.  Now don't get me wrong I think Opsec is very important.  I take my job seriously and I'm not going to tell you when a flight is going out over a nonsecure net you can ask me 20 times what time and I'll probably hang up on you lol, but I get annoyed when people take it so far as to say that something as broad as a month is a "violation" of Opsec.  

Afghanistan isn't what you think it is.  You probably think your husband is on the only plane with the only flight out of here that day or week or month so it would be very easy for a terrorist to track him down, at least thats how I feel when I read some of these posts.  There are hundreds if not thousands of flights around this country every day. 

Lets do some math.  You say your husband will be home in lets say 10 months.  He could come home early "probably not he's a Marine," or what most likely will happen he will be here longer than that.  So lets say that leaves a 6 week window the month you think he'll be home 2 weeks for before that, because who knows there may be a miracle that he comes home early and I am using two weeks after hes supposed to be home which is probably when he will show up.  Now lets say there are 500 flights a day across Afghanistan.  This is a very low number as there are at least a hundred a day, just fixed wing, flights where I am.  So here we go get out the calculators 500 x 42(6weeks x 7 days) = 21000 possible flights.  Is One in TWENTY-ONE THOUSAND specific?  I don't think so.  If you do that's fine I am not telling you to do any different, just use your head, don't give out specific times, dates, numbers of troops that type of thing, and don't go crazy or drive other people crazy over it.  

One last closing thing that was just brought to my attention,  If the terrorists really wanted to get at this flight your husband is on there is a website right out on the good old internet that tracks flights into the US.  Right now you are seeing what I think is Opsec.  Im neither going to tell you the website or tell you which bases it tracks flights to.  But I will tell you that it tracks military flights and you don't need any kind of clearance to get on it. If they wanted to know what flight your husband was on too late they already do.

"They think they are the stupid guys praying all day wearing weird hats but they are probably smarter than these wives who think they are oh so awsome bc they don't disclose any information that might hurt their man.  That information is already accessible.  They can go on soldiers facebooks and talk to these locals we have on base and get all of that information.  We got an email about opsec the other day it was a soldier he posted pictures from the air of the whole base he was on and labeled pretty much everything but you can't say that you're happy I'll be home in 11 months maybe they should talk to their husbands about opsec not other wives." (Inserted: From my husband when explaining why he was so blunt. haha)

Now, I know my husband is a bit opinionated and straight forward... I have to admit it's one of the many reasons I love him<3 I don't want this to become a comment war or anything negative. This is simply another view point from the other side of Opsec. I know personally I have only read things based on the homefront point of view. I found it helpful to understand Opsec from my husband's point of view. 

& Mr. Sykes <3


  1. This was really helpful! I wasn't quite sure what it was (still learning USMC stuff) but he explained it really well.

  2. I loved this! So many times I feel as though I have to examine so critically what I write. Not because I'm posting sensitive information, but because other wives will see me as violating Opsec and chew me out. Here's to no longer feeling guilty about posting that I just marked another month off the deployment calendar!! Sheesh!

  3. Why hello Mr. Sykes! That was neat hearing from him. (I may have my husband write something now lol).

    I am glad he was able to explain it. My husband feels the same way. When I first started the blog I asked him about OPSEC and he was like "Just don't tell anyone where I am, or who I am with". Simple.

    I found nothing wrong with your last post.

  4. thanks for sharing that. it is nice to hear it from their side, and also coming from a marine other than my own. :)

  5. I am so happy your husband wrote this and not to mention he made it perfectly clear with some great points! My husband and I have these conversations all the time about some wives taking it so seriously and it drives us both nuts. Applause to him!

  6. I really like this- I think sometimes people go overboard with caution. I'm glad to know his opinion!

  7. This was an AWESOME post !!! it was nice to hear it from the marines point of view ! tell your man thanks for sharing it sure helped me understanding OPSEC better.
    Keep up the good work and tell your husband THANK YOU !!!
    and of course THANK you TOO Mrs. Sykes !!
    Semper Fi, Amber joy

  8. Ahh, thank you thank you thank you! Goodness gracious, I feel the same way. I say something about how Afghanistan is known for wheat and corn and watermelons and I get 30 comments about OPSEC?! Then there's another guy in the unit who has the exact coordinates of the city they're located publicly displayed on his page and nobody says a word.

    I can't tell you how GRATEFUL I am to know that they're somebody else out there with common sense when it comes to things that shouldn't be that difficult to understand! I almost broke down today because of wives jumping down my throat over absolutely nothing; I can't tell you how much I needed to read this.

    Keep posting, Mrs. (and Mr.) Sykes! The world needs more Marine families with brains and sensitivity!


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